Practical Ecommerce

Stop obsessing over your search engine rankings

As the owner of an e-commerce store, my number one piece of advice to anyone with an online store is to stop obsessing over your search engine rankings. Instead, focus your attention on building your brand.

In the real world, we buy stuff from people that we like. The “better” car salesman is probably the more likable. The same holds true online because real people are purchasing from your site, not Googlebot.

Despite being a small store, you can still build a brand that customers will remember and identify with. However, being obsessed over search engine rankings means that you’re too focused only with new customers. As you’ve certainly heard before, repeat customers are the lifeline of a small business. So, stop obsessing over the small tweaks to the search engine algorithms and put your attention toward building your brand.

This investment will have a massive ROI. It will create word-of-mouth. It will create loyalty with your current customers. It will help expand your business far beyond the number of new people searching for your top keywords.

The biggest “problem” with SEO is that you’re limited by the number of people who search for the keywords in which you’re interested. All of the most popular and most profitable keywords are already hotly contested. You’re going to have a hard time competing in that space. But, if you pick the “long tail” of keywords, there may be less competition, but there’s also fewer customers.

Therefore, you must become the keyword.

You must create a personality for your website. It needs a “voice”. It needs, for lack of a better word, a soul. You can’t just copy your manufacturer’s product description and photo, “optimize” your pages for Google, and watch the money pile up.

Real people want to purchase from someone they like. True, they may like a cheaper price. But, that’s short-sighted. You’re a small business. You can’t compete on price alone. Low margins must be supported by high volume. By definition, small businesses don’t have high volume. You have to compete via service, selection, and entertainment value. You must become memorable.

If you add personality and spark to your website copy, your visitors will begin to trust that there’s a real person and a real company behind the storefront. And if you can make someone laugh, oh boy, you may have a customer for life! Obviously, you must a walk a fine line between the clever and the absurb, but that’s what separates you from the robotic machine that is Amazon and WalMart.com.

Most of you have probably already optimized your site to the point where you’re getting 95% of the organic and paid traffic that can be expected. What you must do now is optimize your site so that people remember you, tell their friends about you, and want to keep coming back for more.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Put yourself out there. You can become the brand.

  • Video tape yourself talking about every product.
  • Put yourself on every page and create an aura of expertise around yourself. Talk about events concerning your industry or product category.
  • Give your OPINION. Make it fun. Make it interesting. Make it engaging.

Double down on your service efforts.

  • Offer customization.
  • Offer free consultations.
  • Promise to answer customer emails within 30 minutes during regular business hours.
  • Give customers the owner’s email address so they can get their problem solved immediately.
  • Put forums on your website where customer’s can talk about issues related to your industry. Be active in the forum.

Infuse your website copy with the “human touch”.

  • Stop sounding like the manufacturer. Remove the marketing hype and fluff.
  • If there are “problems” with a product, POINT THEM OUT! The amount of trust that you will create by highlighting an issue with a product will earn you customers for life. It’s difficult to “slam” a product that you’re selling, but if it has an issue or two, highlight them. Many customers may not be swayed and those who don’t purchase will trust your opinion implicitly on every other item you sell.

Will this strategy work? Here are some stats from my website:

  • In the past three years, our traffic has tripled without increasing our PPC spend.
  • In 2008, our #1 referrer was Google which represented 31% of all of our traffic. Today, our #1 source of traffic is people typing in our domain name directly and Google only represents 20% of our traffic.
  • In 2008, our domain name represented 1.4% of the keyword searches used to find our website. Today, our domain name represents 23% of all keyword searches used to find our site.

Remember that no change in the search engine algorithm can affect the traffic for people coming to your site directly.


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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Lisa Suttora February 17, 2011 Reply

    All excellent points! And a huge area of opportunity that many small online merchants overlook.

    -Lisa

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